Comparing Sculpting Compounds

I thought I would start things off with a subject that comes up frequently: Which sculpting clay should I use? I have three different kinds at my work table, and they each have their own pros and cons. Here is the breakdown of each one, along with my recommended uses:

1. Super Sculpey

This is the first sculpting clay I started using back in 2000 when I first started making custom figures. For general sculpting you can’t beat Super Sculpey for the longevity and price. Many professional sculptors are still using Super Sculpey. It lasts forever, and it stays fairly moist. This means you can start a sculpture on Monday, and come back to finish it on Thursday and it will be like you never left it. Also, it is half the price of the other compounds I use, which always helps. You have to bake it or boil it to cure it, which is where the complications start when using it with minimates.

Typically, minimate sculpting work involves adding things onto a part of the minimate itself, such as hair. The problem with using Super Sculpey this way is that minimate plastic is rather soft, and baking or boiling it causes it to warp slightly. You won’t end up with a puddle of goo, but you will get joints that are looser or tighter than they used to be. In rare cases, the parts won’t fit together at all anymore. A third curing option is using a hair dryer, which doesn’t warp the plastic as much. However, this is only good for very thin applications of Sculpey, and that is one area where Sculpey fails compared to other products.

When you spread Sculpey out very thin, and then cure it, it has a tendency to crumble and break. It is very strong in larger sizes, but not in applications less than 1/8” thick. Often times with minimates you will want the sculpted part to blend back in seamlessly with the plastic, and it is difficult to do this with Sculpey. You can thin it out and smooth it with a bit of rubbing alchohol, but it still ends up being too fragile after curing.

If you are using Sculpey to make parts completely separate from the minimate itself, such as weapons, it should work very well for you. I would recommend making small accessories in separate parts, and gluing it together after curing it. Otherwise it is all too easy to squish the whole thing accidentally. It also makes it easier to create mechanical items, since the hardened clay won’t squish when you are trying to attach a cylinder to a block, for example.

Overall, I would only recommend Super Sculpey for sculpting anything not directly attached to the minimate body. It is available online here.

2. Milliput

Unlike Super Sculpey, you have a limited time frame when working with Milliput. It is split into two compounds, which you combine and start to work with. After about an hour the clay becomes too stiff to sculpt. After 12 hours it is hard enough to sand and paint. This means you usually have to do your sculpting in smaller batches. It is also twice the price of Super Sculpey.

The main benefit of Milliput over Super Sculpey is that you can get a very smooth surface easily. It also is stronger in thinner sections, so it can blend back into the minimate plastic almost effortlessly. I keep a small bowl of water nearby for smoothing out the sculpt after I am finished shaping it.

The main downside is that fine details are harder to accomplish with Milliput. The clay isn’t as responsive as Super Sculpey. Generally this isn’t a problem with the minimate style, but I have had to scrap a few sculpts because I couldn’t make the clay do what I wanted. It seems to work better for more flowing shapes like hair, and worse for mechanical things. The other downside is that clean-up is messier. It leaves a white film all over your tools and hands that takes a few minutes to clean up.

I think Milliput is best for organic shapes like hair, fur, and fins.

3. Apoxie Sculpt

As of this posting I have only been using Apoxie Sculpt for about a month. I only bought it because my hobby shop was sold out of Milliput, and I heard good things about it when I used to customize Marvel Legends. I am very glad this happened to me, because it is fast becoming my favorite sculpting clay.

Apoxie Sculpt can do details as fine as Super Sculpey, and it can be spread out thin like Milliput without losing much strength. It is very responsive and cleans up easily. It has the same one hour time limit as Milliput, but you actually get less time with Apoxie Sculpt because it is almost unusable for the first ten minutes. During that time it is very loose and sticky, and then it starts to firm up. So you only get about 50 minutes to work with it properly. Also, it is a little bit more expensive than Milliput.

Despite these shortcomings I would recommend Apoxie Sculpt for most minimate sculpting.

Good luck with all of your sculpts!

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  1. November 20, 2008

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